Some in my innermost circle know I have an often tenuous relationship with certain members of my family. I don’t go into details about it on public forums, but I share privately about some of the struggles I have with those people. It’s a battle that sometimes is challenging mentally and physically for me to deal with. So sometimes, the best way to deal with it is silence.
I put some of these relationships and their challenges into my Portals Series. While not every fictional relationship has a real counterpart, some of them do. Others are facets of relationships I have with multiple people. But while the emotions I evoke in these fictional relationships ARE true, the particulars are not true. They all are, of course, fictional characters with fictional resolutions in a fantasy setting.
I have noticed things over my forty plus years on this earth though about my tenuous relationships. The biggest thought in my mind right now is that those same members who I struggle to get along with are often vocal about the way I treat my friends and family of choice.
You see, years ago, I started collecting family members, not related to me by blood, but rather by choice. Some of them live close enough to me that I see them on an almost daily basis, while others I communicate with via social medias, emails, phone calls, letters, et cetera because they are scattered to the four corners of the globe. I call some of these people my family, even though we aren’t even related at all.
I have been told, quite often by certain members related to me by blood, that I “care” more about the family of choice than I do my “real” family. I have been told I shouldn’t cultivate these relationships because they aren’t blood. I have been told I should feel guilty for even letting these relationships exist. I have been told these things by family members who then continually tear me down or who haven’t tried to get to know the me that I have become because they are to focused on the me they knew twenty years ago.
As if simply sharing DNA makes a relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love the members of my family, even the ones I can’t get along with. After all, they are family and I have history with them. I still try to maintain a link to them, albeit a very fragile one. I try, on occasion, to reach out to them, but I have learned to set boundaries with them. I have learned to leave them be. I have learned that my mental state and my emotional well-being are far more important than trying to cater to their whims. And while the door swings both ways, I have learned I can’t always be the one to push it open.
So I do have a family of choice that I would rather spend time and energy cultivating relationships with than with some of my more jealous family members. Often, lately, some of them are the ones who help me when I am struggling. They are the ones cheering me on as I write my stories and craft my plots. They are the ones who have shown they actually care about me and get to know the person I have become, instead of some distant memory of me that is stuck in the minds of some of my family members.
I do cultivate relationships with others in my family and my husband’s family as well. I am close with a good number of different relatives, even though we all live in different parts of the globe. I communicate as much as I can with as many members as I can. They too support me. They encourage me to keep writing.
Those family members don’t comment about how I had chosen to spend my vacation time visiting my husband’s family in the same time zone instead of flying across country to visit some of my own when I couldn’t afford more than a couple of days. They don’t scold me for calling elderly friends my adoptive grandparents when I was a child because my own lived too far away to come to my events. They love me for who I am and have learned that I am my own person as well as an extension of the family. They accept me for who I am, just as I accept them. They accept the evolutions of our relationships and embrace them as much as I do. And they don’t care that I cultivate other relationships, for they are secure in the knowledge that I can have a great capacity for love.
But I have also chosen to distance myself from some.
It’s just as much a part of my story as everything else is. While it used to bother me deeply, these days, I try to just let it be. It’s an old wound that sometimes reopens when I least expect it to, but I let it heal itself, much as I leave be those who don’t agree with what I have become.
And so, I write. I write about the conflicts. I write about my turmoil and my struggles with them. Of course it is all fictional, as I have stated before. But it’s also very real. For writing is about exploring the deepness within the author’s soul, the complexities that make up the writer. It’s about shedding light on the problems the writer faces. If I didn’t have these emotional battles, I don’t think I would be as good a writer as others tell me I am.
Perhaps, one day, some of these tumultuous relationships I have with certain family members will be mended. After all, the door swings both ways. I am willing to mend them if they are, within reason, staying within the boundaries I have set. But that’s just how life goes.
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.Anne Lamott, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life”
Don’t be afraid to have a family of choice.
Don’t be afraid to have to cut family out of your life.
Don’t be afraid to keep writing your own story.
And always, learn to find the magic in every relationship, even the tenuous ones. There’s a story there, if you take the time to look.
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